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I have a friend who owns a size12 South Bend pocket watch which he thinks may have been a prototype. It is model 433 with 21 jewels and marked 8 adjustments. The serial number is 3456787 and I would love help in identifying this possibly unique model. Anyone out there who can help in identifying it?
|IHC Vice President
IHC Life Member
Welcome to IHC185! First, it would be a great help if you could post a picture of this watch.
There is no such thing as a South Bend Grade 433. If that number 3456787 is associated with the watch, it is probably the case number. The highest SB grade number is 431, which has 21 jewels and is adjusted 5 positions. The "8 Adjustments" marking was used on their mail order watches and the "8" was a marketing ploy totaled from adding up the normal 5 positions plus heat, cold and isochronism.
There is more info in this topic: https://ihc185.infopop.cc/eve/f...64101939/m/398107005
I've asked Chuck to send Lindell an email to the email@example.com address. The pictures I received from him showed the "th" in South were a little off center, etc. The second "3" in the model number "433" was different than the first 3. I, too, have never seen a serial number from South Bend Watch that is seven digits and starts with a 3, as in the 3456787 displayed on the movement he showed me. Chuck thinks it may have been a South Bend prototype. Is that possible?
Here are two pictures of the South Bend 433 in question. Here is closeup of of the serial number. I'm also curious as to the variation in the number "3" and the lettering for "South Bend" looks odd. It also has a "Studebaker" dial. Any help in identifying it would be greatfully accepted.
Here is another photo of the "433" movement with serial number. I'm also curious as to the variation in the number "3" as the two threes in "433" are not identical and oddly spaced. Any ideas as to authenticity would be appreciated.
|IHC Life Member
Welcome aboard Hans!!
Great looking watch. Lets hope it is something never seen before.
Everything on the watch is correct for a South bend 12 size pocket watch made towards the end of the company's life. The "th" being off a little does not bother me as I have a studebaker with the same offset in the "th". Mine is from 1.1 million range of serial numbers, again late in the company's life. The 8 adjustments is also correct to the late period studebakers along with the jewel count and red jewels. The only two things not matching is of course the 433 marking and the pattern on the plates. From my experience, there is a few ways this could have been made.
1) It could have been a prototype watch that south bend was looking to come out with right before they closed and never had the opportunity to make into a standard product line. It also could be the prototype for the 12s "Studebaker" and they decided to change it from the 433 to the name "Studebaker" before producing runs of the model.
2) A company employee decided to make his own personalized watch.
3) It was an unfinished movement left when the factory closed that was finished by someone else.
Any one of those answer would be a possibility as we have no records from South Bend on this. Personally I see it as a personalized watch since the serial number is out of the standard range. I have yet to see any prototype watches from South Bend that weren't just taken out of their regular serial numbers. someone may have gotten these plates from the "junk" pile due to the serial number being started incorrectly and finished it out for their own use. although unlikely, it may also have been an unfinished movement in the factory when it closed that someone eventually finished.
Basic point is that it is probably a one of a kind that never had any brothers or sisters to play with. I don't think it matters why it was made, but just that it is a unique south bend and that is what will drive the price and collectability on it.
Also, can you tell us if the rest of the frame plate serial numbers match or are they unmarked?
I think Jared's three basic theories are interesting to contemplate.
One could easily speculate that, from a marketing standpoint, after the success that South-Bend Watch Company had in the mid-1920s with "Studebaker Watch Company" Mail-Order marketing of watches using the "Studebaker" name on movements and dials they may have reasonably considered a variation on the same theme for sale through retail jewelers. If this watch was legitimate that theory could begin to explain it. But then, the use of "433" as a Grade Number does not, because the use of a Grade Number above 431 on a lesser quality movement (the South-Bend 431 was arguably their best movement) does not seem likely.
The random damaskeening lends credibility to Jared's (2) and especially (3) theories.
The problems I have with this watch continue, we can all see the oddly spaced and inconsistently styled numbers, as Hans mentioned above the two numbers "3" in "433" are dissimilar and then the strange spacing of the movement numbers are also noticeably different from what we find on South-Bend factory workmanship. Look at the movement number close-up, you will see in the numbers "3456787" the first number, the "3" is oddly placed and there appears to have been a greater amount of machining around that "3" which is again inconsistent with what we find on factory finished movements.
My impression is the first two digits in that "3456787" number sequence may have been changed.
We have credible, entirely legitimate South-Bend movements that are very different from regular production such as the "Director's Watches" of which far less than 100 were produced. But my point in mentioning them in this topic is the numbers used on those exceptionally rare movements were ordinary "Studebaker" Mail-Order numbers that were apparently selected out of regular production and specially finished for a select few recipients. A few minutes ago I re-examined "Director's" numbers 1075601 and 1075693 carefully and the numbers are neatly spaced as expected, not the peculiarities we see on the "3456787" example.
That raises the question... If this watch is legitimate why would the number be such a very odd one?
More than anything else the use of those numbers "3456787" would make no sense at all. If the watch under discussion was a legitimate "prototype" or "test" movement then why would there be that very, very strange choice of numbering? (At this point I am reminded that when Hamilton set aside numbers for a new line of 12-size watches in 1924 they blocked-out numbers beginning at 3000001 and ran them from that point forward, they did not just pick out a sequence like 3-4-5-6-7 followed by an 87 as we see on this oddity.)
Finally, to the dial that Hans reports as being a "Studebaker" Mail-Order Style dial. If this watch was a legitimate factory "test" item it would have had a "South-Bend" dial, something that would have been stacked by the hundreds in the watch factory. The use of a "Studebaker" dial would seem anathema on such a watch.
People love to fantasize about the possibility of acquiring a rare "prototype" or "test" movement. Being the cautious sort, I always tend to urge caution. Stories are just that, stories. There are weird stories out there and there are weird watches to go with them. But which came first, the weird story or the weird watch?
My first reaction to the "3456787" images was that it looked mischievous and that impression has not changed. That one is an interesting curiosity which raises "What if?" questions. Knowing about the numbers on plates elsewhere on "3456787" may not help as usually only the last few digits are used for control purposes, for that reason if the first two digits were altered having that information would not be conclusive.
Anyhow, for what it's worth, those are my opinions,
|IHC Vice President
IHC Life Member
That's quite a piece of scholarship Lin, it's going to take me a while to digest all of it.
I agree with you about the serial number though, that's most suspicious.
It reminds me of some of the "random" bids I use on eBay auctions, like $3456.78 for instance.
Another thing to note. I happened to look at a couple studebakers that are in the 1.1 million range. The location of the serial numbers themselves on the studebakers are about one entire digit farther right, with the last digit being actually right of the case screw, not to the left as on this one. Also, the 5 and 8 stamps do not exactly match the south bend stamps for the studebaker grades from the same era. From this, I would have to say my opinion goes back to my #2 or #3 suggestion that the plates were at some point finished outside the factory. as always though, just my opinion.
I appreciate all the learned comments about this "interestingly" unique South Bend watch. I hope Lindell is able to speak with Chuck, the owner, and be able to shed a little more light on this one-of-a-kind Studebaker.
The more we look at something like this "433" the "odder" it looks to us.
Look again at the images Hans posted, in the second image it appears that "8-Adjustments" and "433" are not as distinct as other markings. That could be due to the alterations that appear to have been made and would in all likelihood not be so odd looking if they had they been done in the South-Bend factory on the proper equipment. Added to Jered's comments and others in this topic, the more we look the more doubts about authenticity multiply.
Yesterday in my comments on the "433" oddity numbered "3456787" I referred to the "Director's Watch" as a basis of comparison particularly in relation to the movement numbers. On those factory modified and most unusual of all South-Bend watches they simply used the production numbers originally assigned to the movements.
As background, in 1923 Clement Studebaker III, President of the then-newly-formed Studebaker Watch Company, mail-order arm of South-Bend Watch Company, wanted to give a special gift to the company directors (hence "Director's Watch") and a few close friends. Twenty-three is often cited as being the total number made, we will never know for sure. How many exist is a mystery, like all important watches some are probably hidden away.
The fact all the movement numbers are from a run of ordinary Studebaker "8-Adjustment" Mail-Order Watches, something they hardly resemble, adds an additional layer of mystery. To make these special movements they pulled movements from regular production, specially hand finished and upgraded. That makes sense, fits with common practice at South-Bend and in the industry. If any South-Bend watches were to have special movement numbers it would have been these very special and exceptionally well-finished movements, but they do not.
As you can see in the image below, although movements on "Director's Watches" were finished like no other South-Bend, the movement numbers are the same style and sequence as any other South-Bend 12-size in the 1920s casting additional doubt on the veracity of the odd "3456787" watch under discussion in this topic.
"South-Bend Director's Watches" are unusual but real...
Thanks, Lindell, for sharing your beautiful "Director's watch". It must be a real joy to own such a great example of South Bend Watch Company's excellent work. I'm a little bit happy that more consideration is being spent on watches by Illinois, Waltham, Hamilton and the like so that we, who like South Bend's work are able to acquire them at a relatively undervalued price.
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